KM self-assessment: The overall process

In December 2008, the Vice-President and our KM champion, asked the KM core team to assess the progress made to date on the implementation of the KM strategy. In January, during the Knowledge Share Fair, the core team was lucky enough to meet Geoff Parcell and got introduced to the KM self-assessment tool.

KM self-assessment tool
The KM self-assessment tool provides a framework to engage in a dialogue and assess the level of KM maturity of the organization. It is a strategic planning and benchmarking tool which helps to identify strengths and weaknesses. As a framework it creates a common language for sharing and helps organization to identify and define (a) practices (b) trends and (c) outliers. The ultimate goal is to define organizational KM maturity and KM aspirations.

As a self-assessment tool, it creates the commitment to learn. Since it is both an individual and team exercise, it allows both for personal reflection and at the same time it puts people in touch with people, and connects those who know with those who want to learn thus fostering learning and sharing which inevitably leads to people having an "aha" moment.

The process
We opted for doing the self assessment for the following 8 competencies:
  • Taking a strategic approach
  • Leadership and support
  • Building a learning organization
  • Networking and communities
  • Measuring the value
  • Capturing and reapplying knowledge
  • Innovation
  • Implementing efficiencies in our work practices

We adapted the descriptions in the various levels so that they resonated with our reality and context. The core team debated whether we should facilitate the assessment sessions ourselves or whether it was better to have an outside facilitator. We opted for the latter, because we thought having a neutral person would enrich the conversation.

To get a good feel of where we are, we invited three different groups of colleagues - from different walks of life - to take part in the KM self-assessment. We started with the KM CoP, followed by a session with our country programme managers, technical advisers, policy analysts and finance colleagues. And the last group was a group of managers.

All groups went through the same set of exercises. That is they all:

  • individually assessed the KM maturity level and substantiated their assessment by facts
  • shared their individual assessment in teams and came up with an overall rating for the various levels. When there were huge discrepancies these were recorded
  • discussed the challenges and opportunities for taking forward the KM agenda
  • agreed on which KM competencies to improve in the next 12 months

The outcome and some observations
There was an overall consensus that we are moving from reaction to action and that on average for most of the competencies we were at level 3 , with a couple still at level two. However, the most interesting thing that emerged was the disparity between the various divisions. In some divisions the KM agenda seems to have leapfrogged, while in others, KM is still an abstract and vague concept.

What was fascinating was to listen to the conversation between the outliers and see how those who were "ahead" reached out to those who were lagging behind trying to lift their morale and to help them. The challenge now is to make this happen also in our day-to-day work.

The self-assessment provided great insight on parts of the house that need to be mentored and coached. It also highlighted the value of talking with each other and engaging in a conversation. There were many "aha" moments were colleagues realized - just by talking with each other - that either they were doing much better than they thought or they learnt new things about their colleagues activities which they did not know about.

We also observed constructive peer pressure and heard some great soundbites, such as:

  • "We need to raise the level of leadership and support to to bring a change and improvement in the other levels"
  • "The day that directors celebrate each other's achievements and are proud of each other's successes, that is when we can say we've mainstreamed KM and have become a learning organization".
  • One of the most rewarding moments was to hear a formerly KM-cynic colleague saying: "last year I decided that I would do at least on knowledge product per year. I am now trying to find the time to do KM. It is fun, it is relevant and I am spearheading others to learn".
  • There was also an interesting debate about "delivering the pipeline" vs "doing KM". The majority of the group deemed these two as part and parcel of the same thing and argued that there is absolutely no tension between these two things as delivering the pipeline means doing effective KM.
  • "if KM is not our business then we're out of business".

What came out loud and clear from these sessions was the role and attitude of leaders, managers, directors and foot soldiers. There was a passionate call to adopt an appreciative attitude towards challenges and leaders/managers were asked to proactively remove barriers rather than imposing and creating obstacles.

What we observed was that leaders are the ones who set the pace and are the role models. We noticed that if the manager encourages knowledge sharing, creates the conducive environment and her/himself proactively engages in knowledge sharing, inevitably his/her staff will follow suit!

So the collective wisdom was that leaders and managers should stride to remove barriers and obstacles adopt a positive attitude towards knowledge sharing, thus helping their staff to become more responsible for their personal actions and as a result take it upon themselves to not only consistently share knowledge but to make KM a way of life! Basically we should be aspiring to convert more KM cynics to KM practitioners.

Another revealing moment was when I wrote that a division would act as a role model for a certain knowledge capturing activity and the manager of that division said: "Oh, no Roxy, please delete that". This was also very telling, and reinforced the fact that there is perhaps a fear of showing off or setting standards for others which may cause resentment. The manager's reaction resonated fully with Tuesday morning's great sound-bite: "The day that directors celebrate each other's achievements and are proud of each other's successes, that is when we can say we've mainstreamed KM and have become a learning organization".

The challenge is to change our mindsets and our behaviours so that we feel safe to share both our successes and our challenges and indeed celebrate each other's achievements. And we should commit to do so.

I believe that yesterday morning's statements eloquently summarize our current KM maturity:

  • "IFAD has made important strides and taken concrete actions, but progress is not systematic across the house and a crucial challenge is measuring and delivering value"
  • "KM is valued in IFAD, but improvements are needed in the application, in sharing knowledge consistently and in supporting staff"
  • "IFAD as a KM organization is like an adolescent: knows what to do, has an idea on how to do it, but unless pushed or reminded still not mature enough to act independently and fully"
  • "There is a sense of movement. Knowledge sharing is happening but not systematically. There are still silos and lip service. There is lack of individual responsibility and space to do KM across the house"

We now need a good injection of positive attitude and positive vibes to get ourselves to the next level of maturity. There is a desire to get to the next level, there is also commitment - albeit perhaps not across the board. We need to bring on board those who feel are lagging behind. We need to strike the right balance between efficiency gains and not stifling innovation. We need to change the mindsets of people and make them realize that individual and/or team achievements can only strengthen the organization. We need more KM champions and more KM converts.

And we have a great opportunity to do so considering that as of 1 April 2009, our KM champion will be taking office as IFAD's President.

Stay tuned... More to come tomorrow when we have our wrap-up session with the Vice-President and President-elect.


Sun said…
At the country level KM workshop we also found the self-assessment matrix (slightly different version) to be a nice tool to get a good sense of where we are and areas of weakness. I am particularly amazed in seeing the interesting messages poping up from your self-assessment process. Thanks for documenting this.